Judith Madsen: Trees don’t have identity issues

Submitted Article

Wednesday, July 17 2019

American artist and writer John P. Weiss began a recent blog entry with this: “Trees don’t seem to have identity issues. They simply exist, grow and shelter birds and critters. They contribute to the health of our environment, and don’t suffer any existential angst. They are also fun to paint.”

Inspired by his commentary, Gabriola artist Judith Madsen named her new exhibition Trees Don’t Have Identity Issues. When asked what resonated with her, she said it was the second part of Weiss’ blog where he went on to say “If only life could be so easy for people. Our lives are complex. Society and media foist all kinds of images about what we should look like and how we should live”.

On Gabriola, this Isle of the Arts, where exceptionally talented makers dot the landscape like deer at dusk, how does the work of one particular creative stand out? Is the singular artist just another tree in a thick stand, or does every tree matter? Yes, the stand is a forest of individual trees. We are all individuals in our art careers.

With a prolific creative life spanning 40+ years of teaching, mentoring, and active membership in several different artist collectives, Madsen is still exploring her own unique voice, and while she may succumb to uncertainty every now and then, she is crystal clear about what must be done. For her, the way through is always and only, to be found in the studio, imbedded in the creative practice itself.

In this latest body of work, “TREES DON’T HAVE IDENTITY ISSUES”, Madsen has returned to an old love…the palette knife, pressing it into service in a series of luscious Gabriola landscapes in oil. Using a palette knife she explained, means she has less control over the outcome, summoning greater trust and surrender. She said it calls on her to “recognize perfection without interfering”. 

Before we can use our creative voice, we must first practice listening for it. Even more importantly, we must trust it. Madsen is making greater and greater strides in this direction and this latest work proves it.